I got to sit through the most agonizing judicial ordeal imaginable. A prosecutor tortured a jury as part of his deliberate strategy. Really weird and it would have been painful if it hadn’t been so unusual.
A jury panel of 24 people were seated and questioned on voir dire. Thing is, the voir dire took 3 hours on the first afternoon and 3 more hours the next morning. The plaintiff’s lawyer took about 20 minutes twice, focusing on racial prejudice, bias in favor of cops testimony and the nature of innocence before evidence is presented. I assume the plaintiff’s lawyer was a public defender, we were never told. Three jurors were dismissed after saying they knew the defendant from having seen him on the street.
The prosecutor took all the rest of the time to give long lectures on trial procedure and asked questions with a show of hands and then a specific follow-up. Usually very open questions such as: ”is the judicial system fair”, “can you make a finding of guilt without knowing the consequences?” and “do you consider gun laws too harsh or too lenient?”
“Did you have any thoughts overnight about this trial?” After 6 hours, that brought the response he wanted from a prospective juror: “Why do 75 people and an entire court have to spend so much time and money on a case involving two trivial misdemeanors?” The judge and the two attorneys went into an immediate 30 minute private conference.The same thing happened again about a half an hour later when a dozen new prospective jurors were impaneled. Altogether 50 people were impaneled before a jury of 12 with 2 alternates were chosen.
Now, about a jury in San Francisco, that is so fascinating. I saw it because of this incredible strategy of endless time wasting. Just to provoke the question about why a jury trial for 2 misdemeanors.
There is a big problem with firearms in the City. The city hates guns. The last gun shop was deliberately put out of business by the Board of Supervisors. Residents can’t have firearms or ammunition mailed to us. Of the total of 50 prospective jurors interrogated only 4 owned firearms. Two rifles, one antique, one shotgun and one pistol kept on mountain land as protection against bears and bobcats. I don't know what the fourth one was. Dozens expressed their hatred of guns and nearly all considered the current strict gun laws insufficiently strict.
There were no blacks among the 50. There were 3 in the remaining jury pool. This city has less than 4% adult black population. Two of the three blacks, the men, were taken aside after the jury was selected and something told to them. Probably explaining that the 50 out of 75 were the result of a random process. No black discrimination intended.
The issue of potential bias in favor of a police officer’s testimony was addressed. Again, this is San Francisco. More than a dozen people said their bias would be against the police officers because of the media portrayal of police shooting blacks and the Black Lives Matter activism.
In the first hour during a short break, one woman found her bicycle had been stolen. She was angry at the police. The judge explained that the police were no longer in the same building as the courts. The Sheriff's office provided the security. The woman was still angry and was dismissed from the jury.
After the jury was impaneled I was dismissed with 25 others. I talked to a few of the most beautiful women on the way out of the building. We speculated on the issue of why a whole court had to deal with a 2 misdemeanor case. We had each concluded that it was because the plaintiff faced a 3 strikes law and a 25 year sentence. While the charges were misdemeanors the one involving a gun would have invoked the 3 strike law for a former 2 strike felon.